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State Gave Special Permit to Too-High Truck for I-5 Bridge It Caused to Collapse

Legislator claims WSDOT allowing vehicles to travel on bridges too small
(Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

It seems the state had allowed conditions that led to the collapse of the I-5 bridge over the Skagit River.

The National Transportation Safety Board has determined during the investigation that an oversize truck struck the overhead trusses that  supported the bridge, leading to it’s collapse.  This was the finding of the Washington State Patrol, and the NTSB is working to confirm exactly how the impact caused the bridge to fall.

State Senator Mike Baumgartner (GOP) from Spokane has introduced a bill that would inject what he calls common sense into bridge use in Washington state, especially when it comes to what are called functionally obsolete structures. These are bridges that are no longer capable of handling larger, oversize vehicles — or in some cases, heavier loads.

According to a new release from Baumgartner’s office:

As more details have emerged, it appears DOT had issued an over-height permit to a vehicle that exceeded the bridge’s maximum height restriction, which ultimately led to the bridge’s collapse a week ago. While the event has spawned calls for more transportation funding from some state lawmakers, Baumgartner says proper oversight is needed rather than more money.

 “This bridge collapse had nothing to do with gas taxes. It’s just common sense that DOT shouldn’t be issuing permits for trucks that are bigger than the bridges that they cross,” Baumgartner said. “We need to get this fixed now

Baumgartner’s office has investigated and found WSDOT officials actually permitted a vehicle to cross the bridge that was bigger than what their own regulations would allow! He also said the bridge had been previously struck multiple times, but no warning signs had been posted.

His bill will mandate oversize and overweight load permits will not be given to vehicles that will knowingly be crossing bridges that won’t handle them.   The bill also calls for increased and larger warning signs on bridges, and the approaches leading up to them so vehicles have enough time to avoid cross the bridge and seek alternate routes.

Baumgartner said in his news release this won’t solve the problem of fixing the deficient bridges in the state, but at least will protest motorists and drivers until the structures can be renovated to handle current traffic loads and conditions.

He added we were lucky no one was killed by the I-5 bridge collapse, but said unless the WSDOT takes immediate action to protect vehicles and drivers, we are just waiting for another bridge disaster.

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